With O.J. Simpson set to be released from a Nevada prison as early as Monday, people involved in his conviction for armed robbery and his nine years behind bars have begun speculating on how Simpson will fare as a free man.
“I think he’s probably a 2-to-1 favorite to mess up while he’s on parole,’’ David Roger, the former Clark County District Attorney who prosecuted Simpson in the 2008 criminal case, told USA TODAY Sports. “I hope for the citizens of Las Vegas he does well on parole and doesn’t have to come back to Nevada. But O.J. plays by a different set of rules. O.J. has always done what he wants to do when he wants to do it.
“Chances are he’s going to stub his toe somewhere along the way.’’
There are terms with which Simpson, 70, must comply.
After being released from prison, he will be taken to the Division of Parole and Probation. There, Simpson will be assigned a parole officer and hear about his parole conditions expected to include the following prohibitions: Drinking to excess (a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent), use of narcotics without a physician’s approval, possession of firearms and contact with convicted felons.
With those prohibitions in mind, Roger cites Simpson’s involvement in the 2007 holdup of memorabilia dealers who Simpson claimed had items that belonged to him as evidence the former football star probably will violate parole.
“The fact that he could go grab a bunch of guys and go do a robbery in a hotel in Las Vegas where there are a million cameras everywhere you go would suggest to me he just thinks he’s invincible,’’ Roger said. “When he was out of custody, people fawned over him. People were taking pictures with him. They were getting his autograph. They were shaking his hand. And I think that that type of atmosphere leads someone like O.J. to believe that the world loves him and he can play by his own rules.’’
But not everyone is betting against the one-time Heisman Trophy winner who in 1994 was acquitted of the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman.
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Jeffrey Felix, a former prison guard at Lovelock Correctional Center where Simpson has served most of his prison sentence, is more optimistic about Simpson’s chances of remaining free.
“I give him a 70% chance," Felix told USA TODAY Sports. "You’ve got to remember that Nevada (Parole and Probation) is no joke. Wherever he’s at, they can search him. He’s going to be tested (for drugs and alcohol) all of the time. He’s going to have a sign-in, sign-out sheet wherever he’s at. In the first 90 days, he’s probably going to have a 7 o’clock curfew, probably no drinking.
“He wasn’t very smart coming to Nevada. Florida would have been a lot more lenient.’’
Before the test of Simpson’s compliance to the rules commences come logistics.
He is expected to be transported almost 400 miles, from Lovelock Correctional Center outside Reno to High Desert State Prison, a medium-security facility 45 miles outside of Las Vegas. He will likely stay less than 48 hours before he is released and driven to the Parole and Probation office in Las Vegas.
During his parole hearing, Simpson said he wants to return to Florida, where he was living before the armed robbery. Florida authorities said they have received no paperwork from Simpson, but his attorney has indicated Simpson still plans to return to Florida, where he lived before being convicted and incarcerated.
Felix said he heard Simpson will live in Las Vegas in a gated retirement community until he completes the paperwork and process required to be transferred to Florida.
Florida is home to Yale Galanter, who represented Simpson during the 2008 criminal case and who said he believes Simpson will be able to avoid more prison time.
Galanter cited Simpson’s age and physical problems stemming from a record-setting football career as reasons for optimism.
“I don’t see him hanging out at the Las Vegas clubs,’’ Galanter told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t see women flocking to him. I don’t see him doing drugs. I think at that age you’d be afraid to kill yourself.
“I think he’s going to be fine."